The historical role of race and policy for regional inequality

Girl reading book while sitting by shelf in library


Contemporary racial inequality can be thought of as the product of a long historical process with at least two reinforcing sets of policies: First are the policies governing the spatial distribution of the black population, and second are the policies that had a disparate impact on black individuals because of their locations. Understanding current black–white gaps in income, wealth, and education requires understanding the complex relationship between regional inequality, race, and policies at the local, state, and national levels. In this chapter we outline the ways that the spatial distribution of the black population has evolved over time and the ways that spatial distribution has interacted with policy to, at times, reduce and exacerbate levels of inequality. Recognizing the ways that past policies explicitly stymied black economic mobility and how current policies have explicitly or inadvertently done the same provides a basis for understanding how to craft future policies to reduce racial inequalities. Furthermore, recognizing the interconnection of discrimination and the spatial distribution of the black population is important for understanding certain components of regional and spatial inequality.